Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photographs

My mother is not big on photographs... any time I've ever tried to give her a framed picture of her grandchildren, she says, "I have nowhere to hang this." (eventually, I stopped)

But she does have several small, inexpensive albums that she keeps on the TV stand next to the DVD player in the living room, in case anybody who comes over feels they are in the midst of a family without a history. The albums encapsulate three of our family's more recent simchas: my sister Sara's bat mitzvah (she's 31 now), my sister Abigail's bat mitzvah (three years later than Sara's), and my first wedding (a couple of years later). There is a fourth, I think, that contains baby and camping pictures of Yerachmiel Meir (13-14 years ago).

Nothing since then.


These little, cheap albums are actually the tip of the iceberg, photo-wise, as we discovered during the shiva. There are hundreds and hundreds of photographs in the house... some older, some newer, mostly hidden away in the basement. They were probably destined for albums at one point, but never quite made it, and after the shiva, the ones we took out were probably mostly reincorporated into the vast tidy oobleck that is the basement spare room.

The albums are one of my kids' favourite things to visit at Bubby's house. They go straight for them, and I'm surprised they haven't fallen apart over the years.
Naomi has just recently discovered that the strange bald woman at Aunt Sara's bat mitzvah was ME.
She's also still delicately feeling out the idea that the man she's never met in mommy's wedding album is Yerachmiel and Elisheva's first Abba.

(I told her a while ago that YM & EC used to have another Abba, when they were babies, but that he died when they were younger, and now her Abba is their abba, too. We can get into the details a little later on.)

My mother mentioned the other day that friends of hers came over and were perusing the Abigail bat mitzvah album. She told me these people still commented, after all these years, that I wasn't there. I wasn't; I was at Sara's and I wasn't at Abigail's. Those were the years of metamorphosis, when family things became difficult, began conflicting with what I'd learned about Jewish law, with the ideals I wanted to live my life by.

"Even after all these years, they still remembered you weren't there."

Me, still big-mouthed after all these years: "I wonder what they'll say about the wedding."

I may be less idealistic now, but I do continue to believe that marriage, especially one involving a Jewish person, should have a spiritual foundation. That it is a sacrament, a way of concretizing our relationship with everything that is holy and taking our place in the chain of Jewish marriages that brought us to this point.

And, boy, would I love to celebrate my sisters' Jewish weddings. Either sister; both sister. I will love them both forever, but I would love to see them building Jewish lives as they get older. I love seeing Sara and the many small, beautiful Jewish things she accomplishes. It is a lot, and I'm sure it's not easy. Being herself, she must rethink, reinvent each and every step. Every step must have meaning; every breath must be breathed with intention. She'd never do it just because it's done... the way I do. I think it would be very tiring to be Sara.

We all, the four of us, think way too much, in some cases to the point of mental illness (not me! mine only goes to the point of drivelling on this blog...). But maybe I deal better than Sara with the way the world does NOT think, and is often full of people who are cruel and stupid for no reason at all. It hurts me to think of her, so thoughtful and careful, getting jostled by all the morons out there. Marriage... well, that's a whole lot of morons to sift through to find a nice Jewish guy who could appreciate her and always be kind.

I don't know if I can see either of my baby sisters ever getting married under a chuppah... but I can still hope.
I would certainly make my mother go out and buy another little cheap photo album if it ever came to that.

P.S. Added a couple of hours later, which I don't usually do, but I thought this was important enough: the word that seems perfect to describe my sister Sara is "earnest." I don't like to use that word, because it's often used in the sense of somebody well-meaning but bumbling. She's not that; she doesn't bumble. When she decides to do something, it sometimes seems almost effortless, but usually perfect on the first try. What I wouldn't give, most of the time, for that kind of casual grace.

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